Sunday, January 11, 2015

aaron swartz - the internet's own boy - open access

it was 2 years ago today that aaron swartz ended his life.

the friend who recommended watching this documentary about him - the internet's own boy - described it better than i can.
A story of a bright mind, a great innovator and someone who wanted to make the world a better place instead of making money. 
A story of how the law and the system crashed someone who could have had an even more amazing technical and social impact. 
It's a good film - watch it.

i completely agree.  in fact, i cried during this film for more reasons than two.

in the first paragraph of his Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, aaron wrote:
Information is power. But like all power, there are those who want to keep it for themselves. The world's entire scientific and cultural heritage, published over centuries in books and journals, is increasingly being digitized and locked up by a handful of private corporations. Want to read the papers featuring the most famous results of the sciences? You'll need to send enormous amounts to publishers like Reed Elsevier.
i experience this everyday in how much myself and my institutions have to pay to publish and read science results. the cost is stifling. it's a racket. there are some solutions in the works, like the Public Library of Science (PLOS).

but of course some people will try to make money off anything, and the negative side of open access over the last couple years has seen the rise of predatory publishers. i receive regular invitations to publish in these "journals" and to give talks at bogus conferences.  to spot predators, look out for: bad spellings, copycat titles with a hyphen added, and check the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ).

i think the culture within the "hard sciences" has a leading role in dictating how and what eventual laws will be enacted, because it is a progressive community relative to others, despite what it might feel like to the open access proponents within the community.  repositories like github and bitbucket are good examples of where open-source software can be developed in a public, collaborative way.

we need to be raising deep questions about content ownership and information access, both personal and otherwise, all across the internet. the time is now.

Cory Doctorow said: "Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill, and intelligence about people and issues. I think he could have revolutionized American (and worldwide) politics. His legacy may still yet do so."

let's hope so.

anyway, watch that documentary.   it's incredibly interesting (and heart-breaking) and relevant.

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